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San Francisco Mayor's Race: 3 Questions With Candidate Amy Farah Weiss

Mayoral candidate Amy Farah Weiss has been a local activist since 2011 and has years of experience in community organizing, direct-service work and multisector program development. She founded the community-benefit organization Neighbors Developing Divisadero and the Saint Francis Homelessness Challenge, an organization focused on the encampment and shelter/affordable housing crisis. She also served as a board member and operations manager at San Francisco Community Land Trust. She previously ran for mayor in 2015.

San Francisco mayoral candidate Amy Farah Weiss

Bisnow: What do you see as the biggest challenge to building new development in San Francisco?

Weiss: Looking at our planning and development landscape, San Francisco currently has over 40,000 entitled housing units in our development pipeline, 6,275 housing units under construction and 18,000 units under review. The permitting process for entitled projects can certainly be improved … through interdepartmental streamlining, which is currently being explored through a task force led by the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development. 

In addition to a streamlined permitting system, our biggest challenges for building new development are:

  • Acquiring financing for entitled projects, especially for low-to-moderate income affordable housing.
  • An insufficient local workforce to build entitled projects.
  • The lack of a city-led financing and construction program to support the development of additional dwelling units for our workforce and families.
  • Single-family home zoning makes up a large percentage of San Francisco’s neighborhoods.
  • Toxic soil at two of San Francisco’s large development project sites (i.e., Bayview Hunters Point and Treasure Island).

Bisnow: How do you plan to fix San Francisco's biggest development challenges?

Weiss: As mayor, I will lead San Francisco towards meeting our housing balance goals by:

  • Developing new financing mechanisms and public-private partnerships with pension funds and market-rate developers to finance the low-to-moderate income portion of large developments with 50% or more affordable housing. Senate Bill 35 is already in effect in San Francisco and streamlines projects with 50% or more affordable housing by eliminating the six months to one-year CEQA review, thus reducing risk for financiers.
  • Working with local unions and investing in workforce development programming to connect SFUSD, CCSF, SF State and underemployed residents with opportunities in the construction field.
  • Develop and implement a program that works with small-property owners to finance and build additional dwelling units if they agree to rent the completed units to our workforce and families at no more than 30% of net income.
  • Work with neighborhoods and districts with single-family housing zoning to identify three- to four-story multi-unit building models that support neighborhood character and allow for upzoning for multi-unit buildings if anti-displacement and affordability criteria is met.
  • Work with Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris and Nancy Pelosi to ensure that the Navy adequately remediates the soil at Treasure Island and Bayview Hunters Point prior to development.

Bisnow: What will be your approach to address affordable housing issues in San Francisco?

Weiss: Whoever becomes mayor should:

  • Fund rent subsidies and legal right to counsel for tenants facing eviction.
  • Lead the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development to create a pool of workers, families and residents who are currently rent-burdened or displaced from San Francisco and seeking affordable housing at no more than 30% of their net income.
  • Develop a viable vacancy tax to discourage property owners from keeping empty units, along with a complementary new program via MOHCD that supports property owners with tenant screening and management and financing for building rehabilitation if they provide affordable housing to MOHCD’s pool of potential tenants.
  • Support the financing and development of additional dwelling units for property owners who will provide affordable housing to MOHCD’s pool of potential tenants.
  • Develop new financing mechanisms and a framework for public-private partnerships to finance the affordable housing portion of development with at least 50% affordable housing.
  • Support the expansion of stable rent to single-family homes and buildings built after 1979 through the repeal of Costa Hawkins.

Editor's note: This limited series highlights San Francisco mayoral candidates’ views on development and affordable housing based on the same three questions. Bisnow contacted all eight mayoral candidates and will run the answers from each of those who responded prior to the election. The responses are offered for information. Bisnow does not endorse political candidates, measures, laws or ordinances.